Starting a New Farm
The rapidly growing market for B.C.’s 200 agricultural commodities provides an exciting career opportunity in farming. Advances in technology have opened up new possibilities in agriculture, allowing for highly efficient use of smaller lots, increased crop production and more efficient pest management. Furthermore, B.C.’s diverse demographic provides niche markets for both large and small scale businesses.
Farming offers a rewarding lifestyle and with the right skills and knowledge, growing food sustainably can provide a viable business opportunity. A wide range of activities are involved in being a farmer, from hands-on work in the field, barn or greenhouse, to repairing equipment, solving problems, analyzing production and sales data and more. Innovative use of technology and science is often part of daily operations, offering new farmers an opportunity to use their creativity to maximize production sustainably or add value to their products through post-production processing.
If you are interested in exploring the idea of starting a new farm, there are many questions to answer. How will you gain the right knowledge? Where will you find affordable farm land? How will you finance your new farm start-up? The following information, guides and workbooks will help you assess your skills and interests, and ask the right questions to turn your ideas into a plan for success.
Many programs and services are available to assist new farmers in starting their business venture, including advisory services, workshops, seminars and analytical tools. Check back periodically for new or updated programs and services or contact AgriService BC for more information.
Organizations for New Farmers
Local organizations may offer support and networking for new farmers. They can be a source of inspiration and practical help to get started. Some examples include:
New Farm Start-up Guide
The New Farm Start-up Guide helps prospective new farmers explore the passion, interest and skills they bring to a new farm operation. To be successful the passion and interest must be guided by modern business practices and a comprehensive farm business management plan. The guide will help pose the relevant questions when building a farm business management plan.
The New Farm Start-up Guide provides information on:
- Adapting a farm to your needs and interests
- Identifying worthwhile local market opportunities
- Determining the best products to sell
- Creating a profitable farm operation
- Establishing a farm enterprise plan
The Taking Stock farm business planning workbook involves answering a series of questions to help you identify strengths and weaknesses in your operation in nine farm business management areas. Taking Stock is one of five steps in the Farm Business Advisory Services program. Completing this self-assessment and the subsequent Farm Action Plan is intended to prepare you to make the most efficient use of the Farm Business Advisory Services program funding and your Farm Business Advisor.
Researching Market Opportunities
For farmers to grow their businesses, they must be aware of emerging market opportunities and the required skills to be successful. Doing extensive research before starting a new farm business venture can help mitigate risk. Services are available to inform and prepare new farmers to take advantage of existing and emerging market opportunities.
Managing a Farm Business
The production fundamentals of farming are relatively simple compared to the management skills needed to keep a farm profitable and sustainable. With the demands of raising livestock or growing crops, many new farmers struggle to manage their business. Devoting time to the business aspect of a farm can keep it running smoothly.
New innovations in science and technology spell opportunity for creative entrepreneurs. Innovative thinking can increase the profitability of emerging farmers and provide a competitive edge by adopting emerging high-tech methods, collaborating with others on new technologies and processes or researching and developing their own ideas. Examples of innovative success stories include: better science-based management of pests and diseases, processes for turning waste into high value products, and value added products that meet niche-market trends. Funding and support programs are available to help innovative entrepreneurs bring their ideas to fruition.
Developing Farming Skills
It is advisable to develop farming skills before starting a new farming business venture, particularly if you have no prior farming experience. Studying agriculture at a post-secondary institution, taking on an internship and volunteering on a farm are some ways to develop farming skills. Taking on an internship or volunteer opportunity can also help determine if farming is the right career path for you.
- Learn more about youth and career development in agriculture
- Volunteer on an organic farm, WWOOF Canada
- Find internship opportunities, Young Agrarians
- Find internship and volunteer opportunities, Vancouver Urban Farming Society
Learn about some agricultural post-secondary education programs in B.C.:
- University of the Fraser Valley, Faculty of Agriculture
- University of British Columbia, Faculty of Land and Food Systems
- Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems program
- Thompson River University, Applied Sustainable Ranching program
Finding land to purchase or lease is an important step in starting a new farm but can be difficult, particularly in the lower mainland region of B.C. It is also important to acquire land appropriate for the farm activity you are proposing. The B.C. Land Matching Program (BCLMP) provides land matching and business support services to new farmers looking for land to farm as well as landowners interested in finding someone to farm their land.
A land leasing workbook is available to guide potential lessors and lessees in developing a lease agreement. The B.C. Government also hosts workshops about accessing and leasing farmland, please contact AgriService BC for more details.
- B.C. Land Matching Program
- BC Farmland Lease Workbook (PDF,)
- Connect with farmland owners (FarmLink)
- Find farmland and land access tools (Young Agrarians)
- Learn about farming in specific regions of B.C.
- Guide for Agriculture Lease Agreements in British Columbia (PDF, 2.5 MB)
Accessing Start-up Capital
Financial management is the backbone of any successful business. It starts with the development of a suitable financial information system. This will allow you to analyze the information and establish financial goals, which are required to set future performance benchmarks. To obtain funding to finance a farm contact local banks, credit unions or Farm Credit Canada. Government funding may be available through a variety of programs.
- Learn about financial management in farming
- Learn about financing options for B.C. businesses
- Find financial products, calculators and tools, Farm Credit Canada
See How Other B.C. Farmers Got Started